How to run a practical performance review for remote employees

Just because employees are working remotely it doesn't mean that you can afford to forget about performance reviews. If anything, performance reviews are even more vital when employees work from home because it creates a clear overview of progress, what's going well and what isn't.

Setting up a performance review can feel quite overwhelming in general and now with a global pandemic taking a toll on businesses, performance reviews are more difficult to plan, build, and execute.

HR practitioners across the globe are now gearing up to set up their annual performance review cycles and they're running into unusual circumstances that in some way affect performance reviews.

To start with, unlike in an office setting where managers can observe how people are going about their day, being remote makes it difficult to constantly be in the loop about what employees are working on and what they're struggling with. That's why the performance reviews need to be altered in a way that represents the globally challenging situation everyone experienced.

We will give you practical tips on how to prepare and run a successful review, even while working remotely.

In this article, we will focus on the following (jump ahead):

- Why you shouldn't skip the performance review for remote employees

- How to prepare for a successful performance review for remote employees

- How to track review progress

- What to do after the review process is finished

Why you shouldn't skip the performance review for remote employees

Being remote is not a reason to cancel a performance review. Ambitions of your people do not become smaller when working remotely. Following through on a performance review makes your teams feel seen and heard and as such. Research has found that fair and objective feedback (that includes what the employee has done or doing well and constrictive advice for improvement) results in more productive, engaged, and happy employees.

Staying on top of remote work performance and monitoring how employees are performing in their roles (as well as their careers) and what their remote struggles are is a surefire way to get the best out of people and to create an environment they want to be a part of, regardless of where they are located.

Another benefit of continuous performance management is that at the end of the year, you have most of the performance-related information already gathered. Meaning all those emails from team leaders and department heads directed at HR for review extensions could become a thing of the past for you.

Remote performance reviews do not have to be drastically different from the performance reviews you were already running, yet there are some important elements you should take into account and alter accordingly. Before you begin, remember that being practical with your performance review during these uncertain times is the best way to go - no need to overcomplicate your process or focus solely on targets set before COVID-19 took place.

How to prepare for a successful performance review for remote employees

Performance management is an ongoing process. It doesn’t start and end with performance reviews. We know that there needs to be a strong process in place that supports ongoing, real-time feedback, and one-on-ones, to keep track of performance along with engagement surveys to see how your teams are coping with remote work.

This time around, we recommend you put the emphasis of the review questions on the learnings of the individual. Try to focus on the soft skills needed for remote work next to the individual output.

Making sure that the remote performance review is actually about an individuals’ performance is instrumental.

Of course, don't forget to acknowledge the current situation either, and checking in on how your teams are coping is equally as important. If you deem it necessary, run a Remote Employee Pulse Survey before the performance reviews to get some key insights about individual and team feelings - you can later use those to formulate your performance review questions.

After you've thought about your performance review process, make sure to give the people leading in your organization the heads up that the review is happening and explain to them what will be different compared to previous years.

Next, let the participants know what type of reviews they will have to fill out and how long it will take them so they can block time to do so in advance. Start encouraging managers to plan time slots for post-reviews discussions with their employees even before you send out the review.

If you'd prefer to automate most of these time-consuming processes and cut down on precious time, consider using a dedicated performance management tool. This way you can easily distribute the review questions to employees and keep the gathered information in one place for future reference.

Some additional points to consider when communicating with your workforce about the upcoming review.

How to track review progress

When the communication has been shared with all those involved in the review you can start with the reviewing process.

Keeping a close eye on the progress of the review is important. One of the main reasons for that is that people might be struggling to assess the quality of the work delivered by their peers or team members due to the remote conditions.

By monitoring the progress or lack of such, you will be able to intercept these struggles timely and will be able to ask the teams or individuals what is holding them back.

Having someone available within HR that can help with the verbalization of noticed behaviors or performance can provide extra confidence to those that are completing the review.

Providing between 7 to 14 working days to complete a review is a good window to still feel the urgency to do so, but not having to drop all the balls that remote workers are already keeping in the air and jump on the review process.

If you notice little progress 48 hours before the end of the review, an extension can be provided of 2 or 3 working days to help your people to complete the review.

What to do after the review process is finished

Reading a performance report can be confrontational or a delight. The employee's blind spots might surface, things they weren't aware that they do or for that matter, don't. They may also uncover hidden strengths that others see in them, which they are not aware of or even take for granted. Regardless of what is in the report, people must have time to process the contents.

That means that sending out a report by 5 PM on a Friday could be considered a bad idea. We recommend you have the reports go out during working hours, for example on a Thursday around lunchtime.

This way, people can share their enthusiasm or have the option to talk to their peers and managers when clarity is needed. Planning a conversation with each team member as a manager to discuss the outcomes will help to see the received feedback within context. It will also help to set goals for the coming quarter(s). Having an agenda for this 1:1 before it takes place will make sure both parties have a sense of accomplishment and no pressing matters will be missed.

Summary

Doing performance reviews can be overwhelming as it is yet taking into account the global circumstances surrounding COVID-19 can make it way more chaotic than usual. When approaching the process, HR practitioners should keep in mind that performance reviews for remote employees don't have to be drastically different, yet they might need to be tweaked a bit.

Here's a quick recap of the most important takeaways:

Looking for a tool that will help you seamlessly automate the whole performance review process from inviting participants and creating questions to sending reminders, and receiving reports?

Learn how Impraise can help you with the whole process from start to finish, including a highly-responsive Support team to assure the tool's smooth integration and quick adoption.

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